A call for suggestions on reading material…
Since it’s the end of “Islamofacsism Week”, I thought I’d toss a question and a request for research help out there to the crowd. I’ve argued for a while that we face a significant problem worldwide with a movement within Islam (note that ‘a movement within’ =! ‘Islam’) that is absolutist, violent, nihilistic, and expansionist, and that we need to break the movement before it becomes the dominant one within the Muslim community (at which point my little equation may be incorrect).
In my view the roots of this movement are as European as they are Islamic.
There are three European-influenced movements that I’ve found in modern Islamic thought; Pan-Arabism – the notion of the ‘Arab People’ as one nation; the Palestinian movement; and the Muslim Brotherhood, and it’s descendents down to Al Ida.
All three have strong European roots, and in two cases, appear to have foundational connections to (actual as opposed to Bushitler) Nazism.
I wrote about Pan-Arabism a while ago:
I picked up Bernard Lewis’ collection of essays ‘From Babel to Dragomans‘ and have been working through it in my odd moments. One of his essays, on Pan-Arabism, makes the following connections:
…the first theoretical statement of pan-Arabism is the work of a certain ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi (?1849 – 1902), nowadays generally regarded as the ideological pioneer of pan-Arabism…He is principally remembered for two books, both of which were attacks on the Ottoman Sultanate in general and on the reigning Sultan, Abdulhamid II, in particular…The second [book], entitled Umm al-Qura (The Mother of Cities, i.e. Mecca)…is hardly more original than the other [Lewis suggests that Kawakibi’s first book was a hash of Della Tirannide, by Alfieri], being to a large extent a reflection of the views expressed by the English Romantic poet Wilfred Scawen Blunt in his book The Future of Islam, published in 1881 and setting forth the idea of an Arab Caliphate.
Bin-Laden’s core philosophy is thus the restoration of something that never was – an Arab (as opposed to Turkish) Caliphate. Something suggested originally by a British Romantic poet. The philosophical lineage is there; now it just needs to be explored. Blunt’s book is at the UCLA library, and sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll go pick it up and report.
(I never did, but will…)
The second intellectual precursor of pan-Arabism was another Syrian, this time a Christian, Negib (Najib) Azoury (birthdate unknown – died 1916). Azoury was a Maronite or Uniate Catholic Christian who studied in Istanbul and Paris and later became a provincial official in Jerusalem. He left his post in unknown circumstances and seems to have been condemned to death in absentia in 1904, when he fled to Paris. In the following year, he published a book, Le reveil de la nation arabe. He spent most of the remaining years of his life in Paris, where he formed an organization – probably a one-man show – called the ‘Ligue de la patrie arabe’ … The name, it has been remarked is reminiscent of the anti-Drefusard ‘Ligue de la patrie francaise’, which flourished in the late eighteen nineties. His writings reflect the anti-Semetic obsessions with worldwide Jewish power which were current in anti-Dreyfusard circles…
So the roots of Islamist thought can be seen as going back to the salons of London and cafes of Paris. That matters, both because it shows that the philosophy we’re fighting against is a relatively recent one – this isn’t thousands of years old – and that it had other paths to follow:
The new and significant elements in Kawakibi’s writings are 1) his clear and explicit rejection of the Ottoman Caliphate; 2) his insistence on the Arabic-speaking peoples as a corporate entity with political rights of its own and 3) most radical of all, his idea of a spiritual Caliphate which would presumably leave politics and government to a secular authority separate from religious authority and law, entirely within the scope of human decision and action.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in the 1920’s by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan al-Banna. He is often sited as having corresponded with and received aid from the Nazi Party; one thing I’d love to get pointed to is one or two good biographies of him. al-Banna was one of Qutb’s mentors, and Qutb’s writings strongly influenced not only the Muslim Brotherhood but the movements that we loosely call ‘Islamist’ today.
And finally, we have Mohammad al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem (so created by the British, btw), who spent World War II in Germany trying to be helpful to the Reich. al-Husayni was Yassir Arafat’s predecessor and as reported, sponsor. Here’s also someone I’d like to know more about.
But I think that it’s fair to suggest that there are enough ties to fascism that it’s not outrageous to use the term. But it’s always worth learning more. And learning more about the links between European anti-Enlightenment philosophy and Islamism as well.
the common roots may explain why it is that anti-enlightenment movements and Islamist movements seem to make such good bedfellows.